Thursday, 8 November 2018

How to Ensure You Get Your Bag Intact in the Airport Arrivals Hall

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I was chatting to Cath from Passports and Adventures, (on social media of course) about how hard air travel can be with little ones. 
Even without children, one of my biggest worries is arriving at my destination without my luggage. Imagine having to spend your holiday money on essentials and a new wardrobe! Cath had lots of great tips and ideas and I asked her to share them with us.
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Cath, Alex and their gorgeous German Shepherd 

Cath is an Irish expat who now lives in Portugal with her husband and son. A former scientist, she gave up working when they emigrated south from the UK. She is a family travel blogger and hopes that, through her blog, they will inspire more families to travel, especially with the toddlers in tow. As a family they love travelling and have started working their way through their family travel bucket list. Cath writes about their family travels and experiences on her blog, Passports and Adventures.
Here are her tips.


How to Ensure You Get Your Bag Intact in the Airport Arrivals Hall 

I don’t know about you, but no matter how much we travel as a family, there is always a small worry about whether our checked luggage will make it to the belts at the end of our journey, or not. And will it arrive unscathed and undamaged? Will everything still be in the bag or will we find something missing meaning someone’s been inside it, rummaging around? To date, we’ve been very lucky to not have had an incident with our checked luggage. To help you ensure the same, here are some hints and tips to how to ensure you get your bag intact in the airport arrivals hall.

Did you know that between the time you check your luggage in at the check-in desk and the time you claim it at your destination, it passes through a maze of conveyor belts and baggage carts as well as ending up in the hold of the airplane. Once you are in the air, baggage may move around or even tumble in the hold if the plane hits rough air and turbulence. To be fair, overall, relatively few bags are damaged or lost. 9 times out of 10 they all arrive on the luggage belts at our destinations and off we go to enjoy our city break or holiday. And, with some common-sense packing and other precautions, you can do all you can to ensure your bags will be among the ones that arrive safely.
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Packing


You can avoid problems by packing correctly. Some items should never be put into a bag you plan to check into the cargo compartment and these include:
* Small valuables: cash, credit cards, jewellery, cameras, tablets, laptops.
* Critical items: medicines, keys, passports, tour vouchers, business papers.
* Fragile items: eyeglasses, glass containers, liquids (check the latest rules on liquids, although toiletries shouldn’t count here).
* Irreplaceable items: manuscript, heirlooms, although I expect these to be a rare thing to carry at all on a plane.

Items such as those mentioned above should be carried on your person or packed in a carry-on bag that will fit under the seat or in the overhead compartments. Remember, the only way to be sure your valuables are not damaged or lost is to keep them with you. Even if your bag is not lost, it could be delayed for a day or two while the airline locates it. Also, do not put perishables in a checked bag as they are sure to spoil if your bag is delayed. It is wise to put items that you will need during the first 24 hours in a carry-on bag (e.g. toiletries, a change of underwear, essential medicines, baby nappies and formula).

You should check beforehand with your airline for its limits on the size, weight and number of carry-on pieces you are allowed. All airlines limit the size of your cabin baggage but there are a few who do not have a weight limit. Others may have a limit of 7kg, which is quite standard, but there is one holiday airline that I know of that has a cabin baggage weight limit of just 5kg. And if you are using more than one airline, you must check on all of them. A limit in your cabin luggage weight will dictate what you can and cannot take with you on board. You also shouldn’t assume that the flight will have unlimited space for carry-on items and bags. Be prepared to have to check your carry-on bag into the hold as late as at the gate and have to collect it at the belt in the arrival’s hall.

Another thing to consider is if you plan to go shopping at your destination and you plan to bring your purchases on board as carry-on, keep the limits in mind. If you decide to check these purchases into your hold luggage, however, carry the receipts separately; they may be necessary for a claim if the merchandise is lost or damaged.

And of course, checked baggage is also subject to limits. Check with your airline how many bags constitute your limit and double check the weight limit, especially if your checked baggage is included in your flight. With most budget airlines, checked baggage is an added extra but for other carriers, it is included in the price of your flight. So, check how many bags you are allowed and the weight limit. Also, check if each bag has a weight limit. We discovered this one year when I read the fine print for a package holiday and found that individual bags could not weigh more than 23kgs each. We ended up having to repack one bag into two smaller ones to meet this requirement.

The bags you check should be labelled, inside and out, with your name, address, and phone number. Add the name and address of a person to contact at your destination if it's practical to do so. Almost all of the bags that are misplaced by airlines do turn up sooner or later. With proper labelling, the bag and its owner can usually be reunited within a few hours.

Don't over-pack a bag. This puts pressure on the buckles, buttons, zips and seams, making it easier for them to pop open or become damaged while in transit. If you plan to check any electrical equipment, glassware, small appliances, pottery, musical instruments or other fragile items, they should be packed in a container specifically designed to survive rough handling preferably a factory-sealed carton or a padded hard- shell carrying case and labelled as “fragile”. Although I imagine these are specialist items and it would be rare for anyone to be carrying them on a family holiday.

One way to try and minimise any theft of your checked items is to lock your bag. Some suitcases come with built-in combination locks, while those that don’t usually have YKK zips through which you can feed a lock. You can use either a combination lock or an ordinary padlock, just keep the key safe and make sure you bring it with you. I know of someone who locked their bag and arrived on holiday only to realise their keys were on their bed at home. They had to pry their bag open while trying not to damage it, so they could still use it going home. Using a lock is not always a sure-fire way of making sure your checked items don’t go missing or are stolen, but locks can be a deterrent to opportunistic baggage handlers.

Check-in


I know some people hate hanging around at airports, but don't check in at the last minute. Even if you make the flight, your bag may not. Remember, it can have a longer journey than you to reach the airplane with all the belts and carts it needs to reach before it makes it to the hold of the plane. If you miss the airline's check-in deadline, the carrier might not assume liability for your bag if it is delayed or lost.

The likelihood of a bag going astray increases from number 1 to number 4 below, with number 1 being the safest option when it comes to airline baggage:
1) nonstop flight
2) direct or 'through' flight (one or more stops, but no change of aircraft)
3) online connection (change of aircraft but not airlines)
4) interline connection (change of aircraft and airlines).

When you check in, remove straps and hooks from any bags, particularly garment bags, that you are sending as checked baggage. Or if they are not removable, make them as small as possible or tuck them into an outside pocket. These can get caught in baggage processing machinery, causing damage to the bag. Your airline will put destination tags on your luggage and give you the stubs to use as claim checks. Make sure you get a stub for every bag. And whatever you do, do not throw them away until after you get your bags back and you check the contents. Not only will you need them if a claim is necessary, but you may need to show them to security upon leaving the baggage-claim area, although this is unlikely as we’ve never been asked to show these.

Each tag has a three-letter code and flight number that show the baggage sorters on which plane and to which airport your luggage is supposed to go. Double-check the tag before your bags go down the conveyor belt. The airline will be glad to tell you the code for your destination when you make reservations or buy your tickets. You can also check it on your boarding card.

If you have a connection during your journey, your bags may only be checked to one of your intermediate stops rather than your destination city if you must clear Customs short of your final destination, or if you are taking a connection involving two airlines that don't have an interline agreement. Be sure all of the tags from previous trips are removed from your bag, since they may confuse busy baggage handlers. We’ve had to collect bags and recheck them in an airport when changing airlines and it’s best to remove the tags and labels as soon as you clear the arrivals hall and before you reach the check-in desks. This saves both you and the airline staff valuable time, especially if your connection time is tight.

Claiming your bags


How many times have you looked at a bag on the luggage belt in an arrivals hall and debated whether it is yours or not. That is because so many bags look alike. When you remove what you think is your bag off the carousel, check the name tag or the bag tag number. It can be hard to see but you should find reference to your surname among the number under the barcode on the airline bag tag if you don’t have a personal name tag on your luggage. An easier way of spotting your bag is to add something that makes it instantly recognisable. We have a lockable baggage belt that we put around our suitcases and it makes them quicker to spot among one hundred other black suitcases on the carousel.

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If your bag arrives open, unlocked or visibly damaged, check right away to see if any of the contents are missing or damaged. Report any problems to the airline before leaving the airport; insist on filling out a form. Problems are easier dealt with and more likely to result in a good outcome if they are dealt with at the airport rather than later on. It is also a good idea to take pictures on your phone of your bag to prove the condition you received it in when making a claim.
If you bag arrives appearing as when you left it at the check-in desk, remember to open it immediately when you get to where you are staying. Any damage to the contents or any missing/stolen items should then be immediately reported to the airline by telephone. Make a note of the date and time of the call, and the name and telephone number of the person you spoke with. Follow up immediately with a certified letter to the airline. It may take some time to get the problem resolved so make sure you record as many details as possible during the phone call and always follow up with a letter or email, detailing everything you recorded during the call.

With a little planning and thought, you can minimise the likelihood of anything going wrong when it comes to your airline baggage. Packing them in the correct manner, being mindful of weight limits, keeping valuables and other essentials items in your carry-on bags, and locking and labelling your bags will all help. When it comes to the airline, choosing the best type of flight with little or no connections will also minimise anything happening to your bags and remember to keep those bag tags until you are happy your bags are undamaged and intact. And always check your bags as soon as you can for damage or anything missing and report it as soon as possible to aid your claim against the airline or baggage handlers.

For lots more on travel, (especially with children), follow her on social media and pop over to her blog.
You can find Cath at Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

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